What is essential is to observe. Get to know your child. If you really recognize what your child needs…then you will respond in the right way. — Dr. Emmi Pikler
One of my favorite books is The Little Prince, a worldwide classic by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Though written as a children’s book, the book has also been enjoyed by adults as it makes several profound observations about life and human nature.
As a mother I’ve had the opportunity to experience the power and gift of observation. Focusing on my little one’s body language—his face, his legs, his arms, his cries—and what he might be trying to communicate, has helped me to respond appropriately to his needs from early on. At first, like many new moms, I was nervous and looked to books, articles and the experience of others to know what a cry or particular body language could mean. After a few months, I decided to trust my own, newly developed, maternal instinct and do what came naturally for me—I observed my baby and discovered his unique personality. What a gift it continues to be to get to know him more and more everyday.
When my son turned one, I enrolled in a Parent and Child class at a Waldorf school. There, observation time is part of the class structure. Parents are encouraged to observe their children to better know, understand, care and communicate with them.
Magda Gerber, an early childhood educator wrote, “Observation is a state of mind and focused attention that cannot occur when the mind is in motion. The less you do, the more you observe…To observe means to be open and detached so that you can see the situation more clearly.” The beauty of observation is that it’s power reaches far beyond early childhood development. As the process is more fundamental than just a way to understand and/or respond to someone else’s needs, it’s also a skill that can be honed and used throughout life. The process of observation invites us to get to know each other—our colleagues, our neighbors, our classmates, our children, our family, our friends, etc.—embracing the differences that make us unique.
The essence of Saint Exupéry’s story of the little prince revolves around a meeting between the prince and a fox. The lines uttered by the fox are arguably the most famous quotations from the book as they deal with human relationships. The process of observation is described by the fox when, in explaining how the little prince can get to know and tame him, he says,“You have to be very patient. First you’ll sit down a little ways away from me, over there, in the grass. I’ll watch you out of the corner of my eye, and you won’t say anything. Language is the source of misunderstandings. But day by day, you’ll be able to sit a little closer…. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Roasted Orange Cauliflower with Oat Berries and Coconut-Lime Dressing
1/2 cup whole oat berries (oat groats)
1 1/4 cups water
pinch of salt
1 head orange cauliflower, cut in florets
2 tablespoons coconut oil
juice and zest of one lime, fresh
salt and pepper
1/4 cup cranberries
1-2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup chopped parsley
In a small saucepan, bring oat berries, water and salt to boil. Decrease temperature to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until tender but chewy, about 30-40 minutes. remove from heat and set aside. Still covered, allow to steam for an additional 10-15 minutes. Drain any excess liquid. Allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 425F. In a large bowl or baking pan combine florets, oil, lime and salt and pepper. Toss florets until well coated.
Roast in oven for 20-25 minuts. Allow to cool. In a small skillet, toast pumpkin seeds for 7-10 minutes, allow to cool. In a large bowl combine oat berries and cauliflower. Add cranberries, pumpkin seeds and parsley. Taste, adjust salt and serve.
Martine’s Notes: Soaking oat berries in advance is optional. If you’d like to soak them, 2-3 hours is sufficient. If you can’t find oat berries, use farro, kamut or wheat berries. If you cannot find orange cauliflower, white or any other variety of cauliflower will do.
To view my recipe for purple cauliflower, see Sicilian Cauliflower Salad.